Bob LaMartin: Get Out of Jail Free Cards to be Issued on Monday!

ABX3 14 passed the California State Senate Thursday night with a yes vote from Oakland’s only representative in the State Senate, Loni Hancock, but it is now in the assembly, where a vote may be held as early as this Monday (August 24th).  Contact information for your assembly members are at the end of this article.

Law enforcement agencies and District Attorneys across California oppose this bill, because it will make their jobs harder, and living in Oakland even more dangerous.  This is a full on disaster of the first degree, and it means that our chances of looking down the barrel of a gun while fumbling for the valuables, which may or may not save our lives will increase substantially, especially in Oakland.  This is a sure recipe for an increase in crime in Oakland, which is already spiking.

PLEASE read the analysis by the District Attorney’s office below (in the quote boxes), followed by my comments.

The biggest issues have to do with early release of prisoners, but there are substantial changes to the law which are designed to keep people out of prison by turning former felonies into misdemeanors, and preventing repeat offenders from getting longer sentences.  It also gives new powers to a new unaccountable Governor appointed commission which would have the power to change prison sentences, and sentencing guidelines, and to release even more than the 27,000 to 40,000 prisoners who will be released early by this legislation.

Look at each bullet point (how apt). 

  • Summary parole, whereby low and moderate risk inmates without violent, serious, or sex offenses would be paroled to banked caseloads.  These parolees would not be eligible for parole revocation, but would be subject to search and seizure.  CDCR would use a parole violation decision-making instrument to determine sanctions for parole violators.  In other words, the parolees would be released with no supervision and no ability to violate parole. 

Read that last sentence again:  The parolees would be released with no supervision and no ability to violate parole.  Keep in mind that many inmates have already pleaded down their violent, serious, or sex offenses, so they are serving time for lesser violations, which may allow them to qualify for early release.  They will be released with no parole supervision.  None!  Nor could they be returned to prison for violating parole!  DA offices across California are scrambling to try to find a way to keep things like stay away orders, search clauses and other conditions of parole in place, but the entire concept of parole is being eliminated for up to 40,000 early release prisoners.  The only way to return the career criminals who will start preying on the community will be to charge them with a new crime (which may be reduced to a lesser charge and probation granted more easily than before).  This is a proposal that just speeds up the revolving door of the criminal justice system to warp speed.

  • Index property crime thresholds to inflation.  The $400 threshold would be increased to approximately $950, with the exception of grand theft (including vehicle theft), which would increase to $2,500. 

Think of this as a “cost of stealing” increase, just like people think of a “cost of living raise.”  The difference between petty theft (a misdemeanor)  and grand theft (a felony) had been $400.00, this bills changes it to $2,500! This is particularly unfair to those who have cars worth less than the new threshold (almost all car theft has been charged as a felony), because now car thieves who only need a car for crime will purposely target the cars of those who can least afford to lose them).  Also, receiving stolen property will be an automatic misdemeanor, no matter what the value of the stolen goods are.  So criminals who run huge fencing operations or chop shops can only be charged with a misdemeanor!  Misdemeanors allow for probation, with no jail time, and if the community is willing to accept releasing prisoners without parole supervision, why not release career criminals with no probation supervision?

  • Convert the crimes of writing bad checks, receiving stolen property, and petty theft with a prior from wobblers to straight misdemeanor for which county jail is the only incarceration available, no matter how many priors or how many offenses are committed. 

District Attorneys have discretion in whether to charge a case as a misdemeanor or a felony based on enhancements, such as prior offenses.  This would remove that discretion.  All criminals would be treated as if this was their first crime no matter how much of a “frequent flier” they were in the system.  The revolving door I referred to earlier doesn’t even revolve, no one even goes in, so no one has to come out!

  • Create an alternative system of custody (house detention and GPS monitoring) for inmates who are determinately sentenced (meaning giving a set amount of time in custody) and have less than 12 months to serve, are over the age of 60, or are permanently medically incapacitated.  In other words, early release with no supervision.

The “alternative system” is no system at all!  House detention and GPS monitoring without the resources to monitor the parolees is absolutely meaningless!

  • Commutation (reducing) of sentences of specified criminal aliens that does not require a vote of the Legislature.

This is a proposal to release non-citizens and deport them.  With even a mid-priced cayote, these prisoners could be back in California faster than it takes to deport them.  Only this time, they will know that California is giving out get out of jail free cards like a realtor at an open house, so they are sure to bring up a few friends or accomplices back with them.  1 in 7 non-citizens who commit crime in California and deported are arrested again!

  • Up to six weeks of time credits for inmates who complete vocational, educational, or substance abuse programs.  Allows day-for-day credits for jail inmates who have been sentenced to felony punishment and are awaiting transfer to CDCR.

This appears to be one of the few sensible provisions in this bill, and is already done as a matter of law and practice. 

ABX3 14 was passed Thursday night by the Senate, including Senator Loni Hancock. 

You can read the full text of the bill here.

It will come up for a vote in the Assembly on Monday, and there are three members of the assembly who represent Oakland, all listed below.  If you want to see a huge increase in the crime rate in Oakland, you need do nothing further.  If you would prefer that the criminals that many community groups have worked so hard to lock up, in cooperation with OPD and the DAs Office, you need to at least call your assembly member.

Assemblyperson Sandre Swanson represents the 16th District, which is most of Oakland, except Rockridge and the easternmost tip of Oakland near the zoo.  Here is his contact info.  Scott Lucas (scott.lucas@asm.ca.gov. is the designated point person for Assemblyperson Swanson on this, and says he welcomes all e-mails, which will be passed on to Mr. Swanson): Tel: (510) 286-1670

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner represents the 14th District, which includes Rockridge and north Oakland: (510) 286-1400


Assemblymember Mary Hayashi represents the 18th District, which includes the Millsmont and Eastmont hills neighborhoods in Oakland: (510) 583-8818

41 thoughts on “Bob LaMartin: Get Out of Jail Free Cards to be Issued on Monday!

  1. V Smoothe

    I don’t think the bill is nearly as bad as Mr. LaMartin makes it out to be. California simply has way too many people in prison, and we have to reduce that number somehow, both for budget reasons and also because a panel of Federal judges says so. For more articles about the corrections proposal, see:

  2. Ralph

    A friend and I were thinking that the way to solve some of the crime problems is to simply chop the hands off of certain criminals. These criminals would not be eligible for prosthesis. That said, I get that CA has a longstanding problem with overcrowding and some in the Federal judiciary have this silly notion that it may border on inhumane, but it wasn’t like anyone said to these criminals go commit a crime. They had choices; they made a bad decision. I am further troubled that we can and should balance the budget by reducing a felony to a misdemeanor. We could stop arresting and prosecuting murderers, I am sure that will save a pretty penny.

    I am curious though how much money could be saved by pulling the death penalty off the table? I thought the appeal process makes a DP case more expensive than keeping someone locked up for life.

  3. Naomi Schiff

    A minor point: It’s Hayashi.

    I agree with V. Since a major result of people staying in prison is they become more sociopathic and learn how to become better criminals, I don’t see that it is necessarily bad to release nonviolent offenders. We have more people in prison than any other state, and a higher rate of incarceration that most nations. IT DOESN’T WORK!

  4. V Smoothe

    Ralph –

    Yes, people choose to commit crimes and I am certainly not opposed to imposing appropriate punishments for those crimes. But I do not believe that committing a crime means one forfeits access to basic medical care, which is by and large what happens in California (one of the many deplorable aspects of our prison system).

    You can read the order from the judges here (PDF). For those not inclined to wade through all 184 pages, here is an excerpt from the introduction explaining the issue:

    In this proceeding, we address two particular problems that every day threaten the lives and health of California prisoners. First, the medical and mental health care available to inmates in the California prison system is woefully and constitutionally inadequate, and has been for more than a decade. The United States Constitution does not require that the state provide its inmates with state-of-the-art medical and mental health care, nor does it require that prison conditions be comfortable. California must simply provide care consistent with “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981) – care sufficient to prevent the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain or death, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-104 (1976). Tragically, California’s inmates have long been denied even that minimal level of medial and mental health care, with consequences that have been serious, and often fatal. Inmates are forced to wait months or years for medically necessary appointments and examinations, and many receive inadequate medical care in substandard facilities that lack the medical equipment required to conduct routine examinations or afford essential medical treatment. Seriously mentally ill inmates languish in horrific conditions without access to necessary mental health care, raising the acuity of mental illness throughout the system and increasing the risk of inmate suicide. A significant number of inmates have died as a result of the state’s failure to provide constitutionally adequate medical care. As of mid-2005, a California inmate was dying needlessly every six or seven days.

  5. Ryan

    The author of this article is clearly an idiot. All he did was manipulate the bullet points meaning in each following paragraph to serve his own twisted view of how perfect he thinks the current system is. Clearly he thinks that his readers are idiots as well if he believes we could not see through his load of manipulative manure.

  6. Max Allstadt

    We absolutely need radical prison reform in California, and resisting conservative alarmism will be critical if anything positive is to happen.

    In the past few decades, we’ve seen an explosion in our prison population, and the creation of for-profit prisons that have an economic incentive to keep more people in jail. The situation is disgusting, and no amount of paranoid law and order rhetoric can justify it.

    Three strikes needs reform. We need to find creative and less expensive solutions for non-violent felons too. Right now, a 21 year-old car thief can end up in general population in San Quentin for years getting raped and brutalized by people who are in for battery, murder or rape. There must be a better path.

    There are men in my neighborhood who are in their 70s who are on a revolving door tour of jail for drunken disorderly conduct. Our rehabilitation and resocialization programs, meanwhile, are floundering at best.

    Not to mention the thousands of people in on marijuana related convictions, offenses which shouldn’t be offenses in the first place.

    Sorry, but I’m with the far left on this one. Five years in Weat Oakland has me convinced that people who think that harsh measures can solve our crime problem are horribly mistaken. I also think that the loudest voices in favor of three strikes and harsh sentencing come from people who learn about crime from the 6 o’clock news. I’ve been learning about it in person, and it’s rapidly shattered any ideas I ever entertained around the myth of pure power being an effective tool for societal change.

  7. Ralph

    maybe we have two classes of prisons – one with violent felons and the other for the neer-do-wells who did wrong but could possibly be rehabilated. if the violent felons kill each off who cares they were pretty much a lost cause anyway. but if we can spare the neer-do-well who made a wrong choice we done did good.

  8. Bob LaMartin

    Ryan,

    You may be surprised to learn that I am not an idiot, nor do I think any of my readers are idiots, much less all of them.

    The “bullet points” are from a document which was circulated within the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, summarizing issues of concern to those who are charged with prosecuting criminals, after they have committed a crime and been arrested. It outlines concerns they have about how ABX3-14 will make that job more difficult.

    The paragraph that follows each “bullet point” are my editorializing on those points. Sorry I didn’t make that clear, but my article was edited down for brevity. In the context that I originally posted it, it would have been clearer.

    I do not think the current system is perfect, far from it. I think the proposed changes to the current system will make it even less “perfect,” and substantially more dangerous to live in most of California, but doubly dangerous to live in Oakland (since more criminals will be released in Oakland).

    I urge you to re-read the comments by the District Attorney’s Office (in the little boxes), then re-read my comments which follow about what this will mean in the real world that many people in Oakland have to live in.

    Are you really OK with the idea that someone can open up a chop shop or start a fencing operation next to your house, and they can never be charged with more than a misdemeanor? Ever? No additional penalty no matter how many times they are prosecuted? So this just becomes a cost of doing business? That violent prisoners who pleaded down their cases to remove the violent charges will be released without any supervision? That people who need their cars most will be the most likely to have their cars stolen because that will be a misdemeanor? That an unaccountable panel will have the power to change sentencing statutes and guidelines?

    If you want to address any of the substantive issues I have raised, I am here to discuss them with you. This site comes with a fully interactive author service, which is what I love about it. This is a rationale discussion about a very divisive issue between people of presumably good will who sometimes disagree with each other. If you’ve got something to contribute to this discussion, then bring it. If all you’ve got is name calling, then maybe you’re in the wrong forum. This isn’t talk radio.

    Bob LaMartin

    PS: The misspelling of Ms. Hayashi’s name was my fault and responsibility. I think I got the rest of my facts and conclusions right.

  9. Naomi Schiff

    It might be worthwhile talking to some public defenders as well as DA staff. The frustrated DA is more likely to be aware of someone guilty going free–but at the same time, there’s a frustrated defender who knows of someone locked up for too long, how impossible it is to get paroled, or is aware of someone innocent or ill-advised who is convicted unfairly or of too severe a crime.

    We have a lot of each, because the system doesn’t work as well as it should. The defenders’ office has just had unsustainable budget cuts which will make it harder for the state to have orderly trial procedure and will be costly in outside contractor fees.

    Respectfully, I’d submit that by only researching the DA side of the story you have not finished your article. I look forward to the sequel!

  10. Bob LaMartin

    Mr. Allstadt:

    I agree we absolutely need radical prison reform in California. If you are suggesting I am a conservative alarmist, I can assure you I am not. It’s just that I haven’t always lived in one of Oakland’s nicer neighborhoods.

    I came up on the streets of Oaktown, and I have seen the corrosive damage that crime has on our communities. Crime is like an additional tax for everyone who can’t afford to move into the kind of neighborhood I live in now, and the biggest economic incentive for keeping criminals in jail is that this “tax” goes down. Besides, the only reason this is even an issue to be talked about is because of the “economic incentive” to the state to release prisoners early, without supervision, and make it harder to put them back in jail when the re-offend. You can’t argue “economic incentive” both ways.

    The jail situation is disgusting. Three strikes does need reform (in practice it has been reformed, there are people walking around with 5 strikes on them). We do need to find creative and less expensive solutions for non-violent felons. We need more resources for ex-felons who are willing to try to change their lives. We need to legalize and tax marijuana and other recreational drugs. We need to look at other “victimless” crimes (but we need to look very very closely to make sure there really are not victims). There must be a better path. ABX1 34 is not it. ABX1 34 is another budget trick, it was just too hard to swallow in the first round.

    While we’re working on those reforms, would you mind if all the early release prisoners come and live next to you? How about if they just come to Oakland? I am on the far left of every social issue, culture war, or political wedge issue that is being fought in this country, but I live in Oakland. Oakland. Do you know what that means?

    I didn’t learn about crime on the six o’clock news, I learned about crime by growing up in east Oakland, where I was surrounded by it. Where people wanted to grow up to be drug dealers, with all that could buy. I learned about crime by watching my neighbors move out because of it, by watching my friends get killed, by watching my mother get robbed at gun point. I paid my dues and my ghetto tax, and now I just want myself and my neighbors to be protected from the predators.

    It would be nice if prison reformed people instead of making them even worse sociopaths, but I have seen entire neighborhoods change when the criminals who were behind so much of the crime got sent across the bay, or even just one got their ass capped. I’m making a case for being able to live in safety, without the fear of someone jumping out of a car, putting a gun to my head and telling me to “give it up.”

    And if you think this is just some conservative knee jerk reaction to some policy issue, you are very much mistaken. Most of the crime in Oakland doesn’t even make it to the six o’clock news. But every few days for the last two weeks a small gang of thugs has been hitting licks in Rockridge, putting a gun to their heads and telling them to “give it up.” Has that been on the news?

    Here’s the news: If this bill passes, we’re all going to learn a lot more about crime, and soon. It will be a very hands on, empirical experience, and it may even change your mind, if not your life. Too late, perhaps, but that’s how Oakland got to be the way it is today.

    Bob LaMartin

  11. Bob LaMartin

    Ms. Schiff,

    An excellent point, and an excellent suggestion, but I have researched that side of this equation. I just don’t have a set of bullet points to respond to about how great these changes are going to be for public defenders and criminal defense attorneys. I think … they love it! It’s a get out of jail free card! This will make their jobs much easier.

    I do not, obviously, support incarcerating innocent people, but we’re not talking about releasing up to 40,000 prisoners because they’re innocent, we’re talking about releasing them because we can’t afford to keep them in jail. The solution? Transfer the burden somewhere else, in this case back to the community. Let’s see how well that works.

    The justice system doesn’t work as well as it should, but if you knew exactly how poorly it worked for victims, and how much it favored criminals, I think you might have a different point of view. Charges get plead down, predators are given probation only to re-offend, every criminal gets two trials where a victim must face her or his attacker or victimizer, jail time is discounted in half off sales at sentencing, parolees are not adequately monitored … and then kill four cops who pull someone over who was released to the community by the current system (not the new watered down system), when they are pulled over for a missing license plate. Keep in mind, this is a guy who the current system thought was ready to release back into the community WITH monitoring.

    Your point, however is well taken, and I invite anyone who would take that side of this debate to write the sequel you suggest. It appears that I hold the minority opinion so far in this forum, but the sample size is still too small to be statistically significant. I also want to acknowledge that this is exactly what some people have already done by disagreeing with me, and I thank you for your cogent postings.

    Bob LaMartin

  12. Naomi Schiff

    Bob, the unequal application of the law concerns me greatly. I think you know the statistics, probably. So, say, for minor drug offenses as Max mentioned, isn’t it awfully dependent on the bank account of the accused as to whether the person does a long stint in jail, or gets off with little or no time served? Part of the skepticism about our penal system is engendered by the general awareness that more poor defendants serve time while better-off defendants just pay money. This does not help in developing public support for law enforcement, and it bankrupts the reputation of the courts. Our sentencing laws are arbitrary, often unfair, and disproportionate, and have ended up creating a much-too-large class of long-imprisoned, hardened convicts. To me, the statistics prove that California is failing. We jail too many. We do not rehabilitate them. We make them less able to function in society. So we jail more. This is not a useful setup. And it costs us a very large sum. It is highly significant that California has such a high proportion of people locked up.

    I too am outraged by the murder of the four police officers. I see it as the failure of the system to distinguish between unsalvageably violent offenders and people who ought to be rehabilitated, and syptomatic of the stress on overworked parole staff who cannot keep up with their caseloads.

    Not a small part of all this is the strength of the prison guards’ organization, who serve as a job-generating force that has nothing at all to do with justice.

  13. ken o

    I agree with V.

    We have too many people in jail, sitting there unproductively, going to “criminal college” with other thieves, getting more hardened, learning nothing useful except for the lucky or determined few who read a dictionary from a-z, have access to classes etc.

    California spends $216,000 per juvi inmates per year, while spending $8,000 per OUSD student.

    http://cryptogon.com/?p=10512

    BOTTOM LINE: Better to release a few thousand prisoners a year now, instead of ONE BIG FAT JUBILEE which will happen anyway as soon as state and federal authority break down. It is only a matter of WHEN, NOT IF.

  14. VivekB

    In my opinion, Bob has some excellent points, which I won’t purely regurgitate here as it adds no value. I do wish that he offered up an alternative as to where to get the budgetary savings, as in times of budget crises there are no good choices.

    But my biggest opinion is that I’d like to thank Bob for taking the time to write out this post. He clearly put time into it, as well as his responses to each point. He’s created a point of view, been bold enough to put it in print for all to dissect and spit on, and has maintained professionalism in his responses. There are too many people in this world who are content to simply rip others down, without ever offering tangible original thoughts of their own. (ie, Ryan’s “bob is a stinky smelly idiot who eats his own poo poo” comment – and that helps this conversation how?)

    I know i’m more attuned to this than most – For many years, in the real world, i’ve been what’s now called a ‘Project Leader’. Of course, all that really means is that I’m the guy who volunteers to put his neck on the line to get something difficult done, and watches as everybody and their brother either take pot shots at you (in the beginning when success is highly improbable and they want to prep for the “i told you so”) or attempt to put their own thumbprint on the solution (when success begins to look likely and they want to share in the glory). All I do is ‘low chance of survival’ type projects, i’ve been nearly fired once, and several times i haven’t been invited back as i achieved success but had to break a few too many eggs to make the omelette.

    So….Bob, thanks for taking the time, and sticking your neck out. There’s only a handful of folks willing to write public posts, and we need 10x the # we have now.

    I do have one question, which is – where would you suggest cutting to save the $$ that this would save? (and damnit, i can’t find the estimated savings for this, i swear i saw it somewhere). I know this is going to cost us more in the long run, but we have this short-term issue to get through, and everytime we mention any of the other bloated areas, special interests go all hinky. We don’t contribute enough to politicians to have them really listen to us.

  15. TheBoss

    Wait. So you’re saying it’s better to have the threshold at $400 so people will steal more expensive cars, since there’s no legal reason to steal a cheaper car?

    That’s ridiculous. Of course it’s better to have people steal cheaper cars! Then the cost to society due to the crime is lower. Your class-warfare justification for your assertion is just silly.

  16. Bob LaMartin

    TheBoss,

    Your question is confusing at best, and your conclusion does not follow from anything I wrote, in fact it is so poorly articulated that I can’t tell if you are posting tongue in cheek, or just head … in a different place.

    In any case, if you are trying to address my assertion that changing the threshold for misdemeanor auto theft from $400 to $2500 is disproportionately unfair to the poor, I can certainly address that. Again.

    Yes, I am saying it’s better to have the threshold of $400 for separating petty theft from grand theft auto; no I’m not suggesting that we encourage people to steal more expensive cars. I’m saying let’s keep the current law in place and discourage stealing cars by prosecuting all auto theft as a felony. Period. Either that or put out a new game, “Petty Theft Misdemeanor: Oakland.” It’s just like GTA, only you never go to jail for stealing cars.

    When ABX3 14 is enacted, it won’t take long for criminals to figure out that if they steal a car that is worth less than $2,500, it is automatically a misdemeanor, and if they steal a car worth more than $2,500, it is automatically a felony. When they are caught, if it’s even worth prosecuting, it is less likely that they will go to jail or prison. When they steal another car worth less than $2,500, it will still be a misdemeanor, the fact that they stole a car a week earlier will not be considered, and if it’s worth prosecuting again, it is still less likely they will go to jail. And on and on and on.

    Since many cars are stolen for robberies (drop cars), or simply for transportation (g-rides, rock cars, etc.), those with less valuable cars will be disproportionately impacted, because they cannot afford more expensive cars (stealing the same number of cars of a lower value is less costly to society than stealing the same number of cars of a higher value? What sophistry!).

    I don’t think I have made a “class warfare” argument, which is more than I can say about the justification you propound that the cost to society should be measured in nothing more than dollars and cents. On the other hand, that is exactly what this argument is all about, balancing the budget by shifting the problem back to the cities where the prisoners will be released.

    This is just one example of how criminals will learn to adapt to the brave new world of criminal justice proposed by this bill. This will be a fundamental realignment of how the criminal justice doesn’t work. It reduces disincentives to commit crimes, and makes the jobs of career criminals easier.

    Anyway, it looks like this will probably sail through the assembly, thanks to short sighted Democrats who put a higher value on balancing the budget than protecting the citizens of California. If I’m still around a year from now, I’ll be here to remind everyone why crime exploded in Oakland.

    It’s the perfect storm. The reduction of OPD sworn officers below 739, the possible forfeiture of Measure Y taxes for FY 09-10, the further reduction of sworn officers by 63 paid for by Measure Y taxes, the mass exodus of prisoners released to the community with no parole supervision, the increased difficulty in prosecuting crimes and returning them to prison when the re-offend brought about by ABX3 14 … all will combine into a tsunami which will drown the flatlands, even if those in the hills and nicer neighborhoods of Oakland only get their socks wet. Just keep your eye on the rising tide, comrades, you may be surprised how high it gets.

    Bon Voyage, Mes Amis

    Bob LaMartin

  17. Patrick

    Why don’t we just see if there is another state (or states or Mexico) with available prison capacity willing to take some of our prisoners? Certainly no other government entity pays their prison personnel as well as we do and it would be a source of revenue for other states. We can export the lifers and those least likely to be rehabilitated and use the savings to attempt to rehabilitate those left behind. The problem with all California government at all levels is that the agencies end up effectively serving only one group of people well – the employees. All other considerations are secondary.

  18. Ralph

    Patrick, I was wondering the same thing when I was driving thru New Mexico. We could ship them out and hopefully it will cost us a fraction of what it cost to house them here.

  19. Peter Barnett

    Crime stats, like all stats, are hard to deal with – cause and effect relationships are slippery. If that was not the case, it would be easy to prevent crimes, just arrest the people who will commit them before they get around to it – a task that has proven essentially impossible.

    So one has to look for actual evidence, rather than speculation, to attempt to predict what might happen in the future. Maybe, just maybe, a knowledge of history helps predict the future. That being said, crime IS sure to increase simply because the population increases. Whether the crime RATE will increase, or what types of crimes will increase, is very hard to predict. Maybe you have a magic system – if so, share it with us.

    However, some recent history seems to counter your speculation about the future. In the Tribune today (page 1) was an article about the increased rate of release of KILLERS by the governor after years of refusal to do so. Yet, this year, murders are down in Oakland, SF, LA and Long Beach – all of which have been reported in the news over the past few weeks.

    Hmmmm! More killers on the street, but fewer murders. Is that what your theory would predict?

    We will just have to wait and see what happens, or come up with a politically acceptable way to save the millions of dollars a year that the proposal is said to save.

  20. Bob LaMartin

    Mr. Barnett,

    Welcome, and thank you for your comments.

    Crime statistics are indeed hard to deal with, particularly in Oakland, where OPD is still dealing with it’s hangover with Chief Tucker, who stopped the distribution of crime statistics to neighborhood groups and citizens. This may change with the new Chief.

    As for your statement “it would be easy to prevent crimes, just arrest the people who will commit them before they get around to it …” Really? I’ve heard people make a case for this by using racial profiling, but never by using statistics alone!

    Your point about looking for (at) the actual evidence, rather than speculation, to attempt to predict what might happen in the future is well taken, and our knowledge of history can indeed help us to predict the future. Making a distinction between the number of crimes and the rate is also a helpful distinction (in all my postings, I have been referring to the crime rate, not the number of crimes).

    I didn’t see the article you are referring to in today’s Tribune, nor can I find it online, if you could post a link that would be helpful. Knowing the specifics about which KILLERS had been released, when, where, their current ages, ages when they committed their crimes, what kinds of programs they had availed themselves of while in prison, what kind of supervision they had when they were released, when the program started, what statistical sets are being used, and what assumptions have been made would help me to address this issue that you raised.

    Without reading the article, however, I will admit that my theory predicts that the more criminals that are on the streets, the more crime there will be. It also predicts that if criminals are released without adequate supervision, or too early, or without adequate support services, crime will increase. If further predicts that if the likelihood of going back to jail, or to jail at all for a crime is reduced, crime will increase. It predicts that the harder it is to arrest people who commit crimes, prosecute them, incarcerate them, monitor them when they meet the requirements for probation or parole, the more likely it is that crime will go up. There are numerous other factors that are part of this theory, but I think you get the idea.

    I would be very interested to see some evidence that this theory is wrong. If I am right, however, and the bodies start piling up because there are more KILLERS on the street, I would think that the families of the MURDERED will not be so happy that we tested this theory on their loved ones because we ran out of money to separate the dangerous predators from the law abiding citizens.

    I do not believe this proposal will save “the millions of dollars a year that the proposal is said to save,” I believe that it will pass that cost from the State to local communities, who will bear the burden of the increased crime RATE.

    On one point we can agree: We will just have to wait and see.

    This is likely to pass the assembly and be signed by the governor, not because it is good public policy, but because we just can’t afford to keep the public safe any longer. At least taxes won’t go up, except the crime tax that all crime victims are forced to pay.

    Bob LaMartin

  21. Bob LaMartin

    Vivek,

    I could not agree more with you on the unrewarding nature of trying the kind of work many of us in Oakland are trying to do. Sometimes it seems that those who do the least criticize the most, and anyone who tries to do anything becomes a target. Those who hang in there for the long haul must have thick skins, good defenses, and some other reason to make life worth living besides a dysfunctional relationship with an ungrateful city.

    To answer your question about where I would cut to save the money that this early release would save, here is my answer: Release everyone in every prison who is in jail for non-violent drug offenses, legalize recreational drugs and tax them. Start with a pilot program of full on legalization of marijuana, not just medical marijuana, to be controlled by both a state agency (like ABC for alcohol, except one that works), and controlled by cities (like zoning laws, deemed approved, and ABAT in Oakland). Oaksterdam is proving that it can work.

    There. I do believe I have just created a budget surplus that we could use for programs that might help to provide funds that would increase programs for ex-prisoners, and reduce the recidivism rate. Let’s also think about the new industry that would be created to employ a high proportion of those who were released on drug charges, many of whom are outstanding botanists, gardeners, sales and marketing people, and have numerous other marketable skills in a prohibition free world.

    Bob LaMartin

  22. ken o

    @patrick,

    we agree about a lot. i disagree about these prisoners.

    they are 80% nonviolent. drug war collateral damage.

    we are wasting $60-80,000 per year on housing these people to SIT AROUND DOING NOTHING all day for years. talk about a complete waste of money!

    nobody should be in jail for smoking pot. make it equal to booze or cigarettes. at most, pot makes people mellow and unproductive/hungry. regulate and tax.

    in ancient times, the greeks did not have jails. they didn’t have the money(energy aka fossil fuels) to waste on it.

    so people were either (paraphrase)

    -left alone
    -reprimanded
    -killed

  23. David

    Lots of strange conceptions around here.

    It’s ‘interesting’ (as in the Chinese curse) to have a real-time experiment of Mr. Allstadt’s liberal ideals, i.e. what happens when you release a bunch of criminals.

    My guess, and I’ll put a large wager on it, is that crime will go up. Some people will say I’m only imagining it. Other people will say it’s part and parcel with living in this wonderfully (gag) diverse city, never noticing that if increased crime is part of “diversity” why, then is diversity so good. Still other people will say, sure crime has gone up, but if you just stay in your house from sundown to sunrise, it’s ok. There’s a cliche for this, oh yeah, it’s ‘whistling past the graveyard’ where unfortunately there will be quite a few more young kids moving 6 feet under.

  24. Born in Oakland

    Alright, academic exercise in who suffers in non-violent crimes. Most seem to suggest no one gets hurt. But living in the flatlands for 30 years and assisting in recovering stolen cars, I can tell you many thefts seriously impact low income people who barely can afford a car. They have saved to buy a decent vehicle so the son can go to work at his first job or a young single women with to kids can manage to drop them off at a day care while she tries to continue her education. You steal their car and you might as well beat them over the head because they are effectively out of commission for weeks or forever. The cars are frequently trashed with missing tires, body damage, ignitions ripped apart, batteries or engine parts missing. The car may not be worth a great deal, but to get it repaired can cost thousands. And car theft is not a violent crime? Talk to the owners and see how they feel. Dialogues on this post are interesting only to see how disconnected from reality many aging hippies have become (and I do confess I am one also) “Talkin about my generation” …….what an embarassement we have become! No amount of freeing pot heads or small time dealers or car thieves will reduce crime.

  25. Max Allstadt

    To clarify,

    I am not in favor of a free-for-all, disorderly release.

    I do expect an increase in crime if a release happens without proper oversight measures.

    What I think needs to happen in this state, and in others, is a migration from prison as the first-choice method of corrections to something more innovative, something cheaper, and something less brutal.

    Steal a car, we put you in a GPS anklet, make you spend months doing street improvement work in the area you stole the car, and we also make you get into real job training and job seeking situations. We have the GPS on you, so we know where you are, and if you’re not where you’re supposed to be, you get a warning and then you get locked up for a while.

    Similarly, juvenile drug offenders could easily be addressed with tracking anklets. A conviction means you lose the right to be where you want to be. Local law enforcement could be empowered to put a ban on certain corners, or even blocks. If a convict goes to one of these places with the anklet on, it starts beeping. If if beeps for too long, the cops get a robo call. In that situation, a juvenile offender is not going to want to attract the heat to himself, or to his friends who might be in an off-limits area.

    And BIO,

    No, car theft is not a violent crime. Car Jacking is. But somebody who hotwires a car and drives it away does not belong in the same prison as a batterer, rapist, kidnapper, armed robber, or murderer. In California, non-violent burglars and car thieves end up locked up with much more anti-social offenders. Steal a car, that’s what you get. Steal 10 million in a bank fraud, that’s not what you get. It’s categorically fucked up. If a criminal has not committed an act of violence against a person, they shouldn’t be in the same facility as criminals who have. Period.

  26. Bob LaMartin

    Mr. Allstadt,

    I am glad to hear that you are not in favor of a free-for-all, disorderly release. ABX1 34, is a free-for-all disorderly release. As the ship of state slowly sinks in the west, it merely throws the prisoners out of jail like jetsam to try to lighten the groaning and heaving timbers straining under the budget cargo lashed to the deck.

    All of your ideas may have some merit, might even be worth considering if we were talking about prison reform, but everyone get this straight: This is not about prison reform. It is about saving my money by releasing convicted prisoners onto our streets in a poorly thought out early release, get out of jail free program.

    Even Mr. Allstadt concedes that he expects an increase in crime if a release happens without proper oversight measures. I expect crime to increase WITH proper oversight measures. Do you remember the names of the four other people who were murdered by someone who had been released WITH proper oversight measures? He murdered his cousin, raped the neighborhood juveniles, hit a few licks, got a car without a license plate, then he killed four of Oakland’s finest when they pulled him over … for the license plate!

    READ THEIR NAMES AGAIN!

    Sergeants Erv Romans
    Sergeant Daniel Sakai
    Sergeant Mark Dunakin
    Officer John Hege

    They died trying to put people like that back in prison, but ABX3 14 won’t even allow people to put back into prison for violating parole! How can that be? Simple, no parole! That’s an example of what happens when the system is WORKING. And you want to add another 27,000 to 40,000 people like that to our city streets?

    Just so you know, none of your “innovations” are even on the table. GPS anklets, monitoring, community service, real job training. Similarly “juvenile drug offenders” aren’t even part of this wholesale release. What kind of “juvinile drug offenders” did you have in mind? Were you including people under 21 with a bottle of wine? People under 18 with a blunt? People under 16 with a cigarette?

    I am amazed at the absolute ignorance of how the system actually works by so many people! You sit there in your comfortable offices and your living rooms tapping away at a keyboard with your ideals intact, and you don’t have a clue about life on streets. Turn off your television and come down to the REAL Oakland. If you dare. It’s a scary place where you don’t live, and couldn’t survive if you tried.

    Once again, try to understand what it going on. Criminals who were convicted of crimes are having their sentences COMMUTED. That means that when they are released, they will have served their entire prison sentence, and the WILL NOT be placed on parole or probation. They will not be monitored!

    When they are re-arrested, the laws will have been changed! Prior convictions won’t count against them. Former felonies will be misdemeanors. Car theft, running a fencing operation or a chop shop, all just misdemeanors that become part of the cost of doing business.

    As for car theft not being a violent crime, I suppose that depends on how you define violence. You have a rather narrow definition in my opinion. Not violent so as to physically injure a person, unless you factor in violence that stolen cars are almost always used for, such as the three people who were recently killed in North Oakland by people in a stolen car, and the people in Rockridge who are being robbed at gun point by a gang of armed robbers who steal a car in between each lick.

    Even within this narrow definition, it IS a very violent crime. Windows are broken, ignitions are punched, steering columns cracked, steering wheels bent to break the self locking mechanism and cut open to remove the anti-theft devices like the club. Cars haven’t been “hotwired” since you were a teenager and watched “Rebel Without a Cause.”

    Two sets of prisons, one for “violent offenders” and one for “non-violent offenders?” Won’t that cost more money? And how will YOU know the difference between “violent” prisoners who pleaded down their charges to get into the “non-violent” prison, and the “violent” prisoners? I don’t have any problem with the current system of treating prisoners according to how well they are able to follow the rules of prison, since they were unable to follow the rules of society.

    It’s actually very fair. Follow the rules, you get the most privileges and least amount of confinement within the prison, you even get early release, but you have to earn it, not get lucky enough to have a bunch of mushy headed politicians who need to save a buck by booting you out the door. Don’t follow the rules and you go to segregated housing unit at Pelican Bay. And for people who have reached that exalted level in life, forever is good enough for me. Some people need to be locked up and throw away the key, others can be rehabilitated. ABX1 34 is about saving money, not about protecting the public.

    Anyway, only a few people understand what’s going on, and when someone sticks a gun in your face and you’re looking down the barrel and wondering if that’s the last thing you will ever see in your life, you’re not going to even remember that you argued for this insane bill. To paraphrase Samual Johnson, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to die in moment, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

    Rest in Peace, y’all.

    Bob LaMartin

  27. David

    PS. Hope all you law-abiding citizens are shopping for personal protection, i.e. firearms.

    D (exercising second amendment rights since 1987)

  28. Max Allstadt

    Saying car theft is a violent crime because stolen cars sometimes are used in drive-by shootings is preposterous. You might as well say that stealing sneakers is a violent crime because stolen shoes can be used in walk by shootings.

  29. Bob LaMartin

    Everyone,

    I just spoke with Scott Lucas in Assembly Member Sandre’ Swanson’s office. There is talk that ABX1 34 may be trifurcated in order to pass parts of it today, and other parts later (once again, kicking the can further down the street).

    Mr. Swanson has not yet made up his mind as to how to vote on this, but is sympathetic to both sides of the debate, so a simple e-mail or call to his point man locally, Scott Lucas at (510) 286-1670, or an e-mail to scott.lucas@asm.ca.gov could make a big difference. Contact info for the other two assembly members who represent Oakland is at the bottom of this e-mail.

    Welcome to new members joining this discussion, and please not that assembly members prefer to speak to their own constituents, so call YOUR assembly member to voice your opinion.

    Assembly Member Sandre Swanson represents the 16th District, which is most of Oakland, except Rockridge and the easternmost tip of Oakland near the zoo.

    E-mails can be sent to Scott Lucas (e-mail below) is the designated point person for Assembly Member Swanson on this, and says he welcomes all e-mails, which will be passed on to Mr. Swanson. scott.lucas@asm.ca.gov

    You can also e-mail him through his website at
    http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a16/

    Or call either the local or Sacramento offices.
    District Office:
    1515 Clay Street
    Suite 2204
    Oakland, CA 94612
    Tel: (510) 286-1670
    Fax: (510) 286-1888
    Capitol Office:
    State Capitol
    P.O. Box 942849
    Sacramento, CA 94249-0016
    Tel: (916) 319-2016

    Fax: (916) 319-2116

    Assembly Member Nancy Skinner represents the 14th District, which includes Rockridge and north Oakland.

    Emails can be sent through her website at http://www.asembly.ca.gov/skinner or
    http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a14/

    Or call either the local or Sacramento offices.
    District Office:

    Elihu Harris State Building
    1515 Clay Street
    Suite 2201
    Oakland, CA 94612
    Tel: (510) 286-1400
    Fax: (510) 286-1406
    Capitol Office:
    State Capitol
    P.O. Box 942849
    Sacramento, CA 94249-0014
    Tel: (916) 319-2014
    Fax: (916) 319-2114

    Assembly Member Mary Hayashi represents the 18th District, which includes the Millsmont and Eastmont hills neighborhoods in Oakland in zip codes 94603 and 94605.

    E-mails can be sent to assemblymember.hayashi@assembly.ca.gov
    or sent through her website at
    http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a18/

    Or call either the local or Sacramento offices.

    District Office:
    22320 Foothill Blvd., Ste. 540
    Hayward, CA 94541
    Tel: (510) 583-8818
    Fax: (510) 583-8800

    Capitol Office:
    State Capitol
    P.O. Box 942849
    Sacramento, CA 94249-0018
    Tel: (916) 319-2018
    Fax: (916) 319-2118

    Mr. Cory Jasperson
    Chief of Staff

    Ms. Sandy King
    Scheduler
    Mr. Christopher Parman
    District Director

  30. Bob LaMartin

    Mr. Allstadt,

    False analogy. I raised two issues, one the violence used to steal a car, and two, the violent nature of crimes that stolen cars are used for. For you analogy to hold any water, you would have to compare the violence used to steal a pair of sneakers (e.g. breaking a glass window to get them).

    Why are you arguing the minutia and splitting hairs about violence property crimes and violent personal crimes? The issue is that the kind of violent criminals that have physically assaulted and battered people can and will be released.

    It’s a budget saving measure, not good public policy. Pure and simple.

    Bob LaMartin

  31. Patrick

    @ken o: actually, I agree with you completely. However, marijuana isn’t legal. Until it is, the release of these prisoners will simply help fund and fuel the violence associated with the illegal drug trade. The Mexican cartels are already taking over our state parks…the violence in Mexico is coming to California, whether we like it or not. Letting those prisoners out now will simply hasten the inevitable.

    I don’t understand how two devastating forest fires can be traced to illegal Mexican drug cartel growing operations, and we all collectively shrug our shoulders. Any other country in the world would view this as an act of war and would send in troops. But here? *yawn*

  32. hedera

    Two points to make here:

    One, I am 100% behind Mr. LaMartin’s suggestion that we legalize marijuana – fully – and treat it exactly like alcohol. Please note that Mexico, which has drug-related crime problems that even Oakland can’t imagine, has just legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, and heroin, and methamphetamine, and I think cocaine. They’re still hitting the dealers, but they’re recommending the users for treatment – mandatory treatment after the 5th (I think) interaction with police. If Mexico is moving away from busting users, should we not at least consider it?

    Two, Patrick (I think) suggested that we should ship our prisoners to New Mexico. If you’ve been watching the news, you know that Michigan, whose crime rate has been dropping to the point that they’re having to CLOSE prisons (can we find out what they’re doing, please?), actually offered to take several thousand California prisoners and house them in facilities they’ll otherwise have to close; they’re trying to keep layoffs down. According to the Wall Street Journal the other day, Michigan wasn’t cheap enough, and the facility was too far from the nearest medical facility! This whole situation is insane.

  33. Ralph

    Not that it matters much, but I suggested New Mexico, but i don’t recall seeing many medical facilities nearby. This of course begs the question, if Michigan prisoners were housed in these jails miles away from a medical facility why can’t CA prisoners be housed in these same facilities. And if one prisoner dies from lack of nearby medical care and the other 99 live really what is the big deal. If 1% of the population died from really rare disease we would not be throwing billions at it to eradicate the disease. We would live with it. So I ask you are we really going to miss the 1% of criminals who die from lack of nearby medical facilities.

    Legalizing MJ only works if the country as a whole adopts it. And even then I have my doubts.

  34. Steve Lowe

    Legalization of marijuana carries with it some interesting benefits that, to my knowledge, have not been discussed much in the funnypapers: all the public land that the CAMP folks are constantly finding under cultivation would be instantly returned to the people, and the fires (how many $M’s for the recent La Brea fire in Santa Barbara?), shootings (how many people are shot every year just for innocently stumbling across a patch?), smuggling (are the cartels supplying the plantings and equipment?), and other land use aberrations would no longer pertain.

    Maybe if the marijuana lawyers weren’t making so much money defending their clientele, the numbers accruing to a social benefits balance sheet for legalization would be even easier to interpret, yes?

    – S